SIXTEEN scenic spots across Zhejiang Province have been upgraded into four-A destinations, and two places were added as new provincial resorts, the Zhejiang Tourism Bureau has announced.
The number of As indicates the level of fame, infrastructure and other positives. Five As are the tourist destination equivalent of a five-star hotel.
Shanghai Daily takes a look at the new list and discovers the range has broadened to include theme parks and agricultural tourist spots.
March is a good time for a self-drive tour, offering a glimpse into rural life, a breath of fresh air and many other activities.
Fotang Town 佛堂镇
The town is in Yiwu City, noteworthy for trade in small commodities and its vibrant market. Fotang means “Buddha’s mansion” in Chinese. Throughout dynasties, the town was the mecca for Buddhists thanks to its temples.
The Shuanglin Temple witnessed its glory days in ancient times. Dating back 1,500 years, the temple was famous across the country for its scale and majesty. Its heyday was in the Song Dynasty (960-1279), when it had more than 1,200 rooms for nearly 2,000 monks.
Its magnificence and status lured monks from Japan. But the temple went through a period of change and turbulence and was utterly ruined in the 1960s. Only three pagodas on the nearby hilltop were preserved.
In the 1990s, the local government restored it to its original design. The ancient foundations, tiles and centuries-old pines were preserved.
Records show Fotang was a prosperous port thanks to booming trade and river transportation. The town was dotted with outlets selling local products, drawing traders from all over the country and making it one of the “four Zhejiang towns” in olden times.
Old buildings featuring up-turned eaves, engraved windows, sculptured rafters and beams have been conserved. The well-preserved folk houses are considered museums of traditional stone and wooden sculpture.
Old traditions and craftsmanship have been retained throughout centuries. Today, locals still produce specialties like lanterns that could date to the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) and feature in ceremonies, handmade brown sugar that is made according to secret recipes and original preparation techniques, and wooden movable type printing technology that is listed as Zhejiang’s protected cultural heritage.
Anji Angel Town 安吉天使小镇
The town is located in the International Fairy Tale Village, and equipped with cartoon and animation parks, commercial services, and tourism and leisure zones.
The highlight is the Hello Kitty Theme Park, which is officially opened in 2014. It cost around US$215 million and puts fans of that famous cat in a fairy tale setting. Kitty fans can expect a ton of pink around the park. From morning until night there are various interactive and walk-through activities all involving the lovable cat.
Souvenir stores feature Kitty adorned on everything from stationary and backpacks to toasters and cars. Even the rice is shaped like Hello Kitty. A Hello Kitty Hotel is next to the park.
It takes one day to enjoy the park. But don’t forget to tour around Anji, which is celebrated for its natural beauty and its bamboo groves.
Neighboring scenic spots include the noted Zhejiang Northern Canyon.
Fuzhi Mountain Scenic Area 覆卮山景区
This mountain is between Shangyu, Yuyao and Shengzhou. It boasts a variety of glacial landforms that were created millions of years ago. A highlight is the undulating terraced fields.
The mountain’s landscapes have provided scientists with an enriched understanding of the climate and geological history of eastern Zhejiang Province, since it is believed to boast the largest glacial stone waves at the lowest latitude of China.
The climate of Fuzhi Mountain is suited to cultivating a wide array of fruit. Local crops include strawberries and cherries in spring, waxberries and grapes in summer, kiwis and peaches in autumn and persimmons in winter.
The cherries produced there are renowned for their succulence and sweet taste. Dating back about 300 years, the growing area now covers more than 100 hectares.
In recent years, the local government has promoted the mountain as a year-round tourism destination, since the scenic area features different activities in every season.
In summer, it offers a perfect respite as the cooling environment helps people replenish energy and get away from the heatwaves of the concrete jungle.
In spring and autumn, the lush vegetation and multicolored leaves provide an ideal place for weekend hiking. In winter, the warm weather fits for outdoor barbecue and picnic with friends.